Java conflicts brew between Oracle and JCP insiders

Apache Harmony license issue also drags on as JCP Executive Committee members strive for independence from Oracle

Oracle's handling of the JCP (Java Community Process) is under fire from some insiders, who do not see a level playing field in Java technology standardization.

The JCP determines which technologies do and do not make it into official Java specifications. Elections to the JCP Executive Committee are taking place this month. Executive committee member Doug Lea has pulled out of seeking another term on the panel and criticized Oracle's handling of the JCP. And JCP participant Stephen Colebourne, a JCP specification leader and Apache Software Foundation member, objects to Oracle's nomination of Hologic to serve on the executive committee. He also has questioned the candidacy of former Yahoo CTO Sam Pullara, wondering whether Pullara is too close to Oracle.

[ Oracle detailed its Java ambitions at the recent JavaOne conference. | For the latest in Java news, sign up for the JavaWorld Enterprise Java newsletter. ]

Lea expressed disappointment at the direction of the JCP.

"I believe that the JCP is no longer a credible specification and standards body, and there is no remaining useful role for an independent advocate for the academic and research community on the EC," Lea, a computer science professor at the State University of New York, said in a statement.

While Sun Microsystems had put in rules to ensure the JCP could foster innovation, Oracle has disregarded these rules, according to Lea. The JCP might become just an approval body for Oracle-backed initiatives, Lea warned. Sun had invented Java but was acquired by Oracle early this year.

Lea instead will focus his efforts on the OpenJDK community for open source Java.

In a statement, Oracle expressed disappointment that Lea would not return to the JCP Executive Committee. "Oracle highly values Doug Lea’s contributions to Java and hopes to continue to engage him in the community moving forward," Oracle said. The company also said it plans to submit Java Platform Standard Editions 7 and 8 to the JCP executive committee "very shortly."

Lea also has doubts Oracle would ever grant a Java compatibility license for the Apache Software Foundation's Harmony project, which offers an alternative implementation of Java than the Oracle version. That issue has been dragging on for years and the stalemate continues, an Apache official confirmed.

"Oracle reversed their years of support for the ASF on this matter and stated they would continue the Sun position and not offer the ASF a license that didn't include the requirement that we restrict the ways in which our users can use the tested Apache Harmony distribution," said Geir Magnusson Jr., from Apache, in an email last week.

"They would be happy to offer us a license with those restrictions, of course.

"The problem for us is that any software with such restrictions isn't open source as it's commonly understood and recognized, and 'distribution of open source software' is one of the basic elements of our corporate charter," Magnusson said.

Colebourne, meanwhile, questioned Oracle's pushing Hologic for a seat on the EC.

"Hologic and Oracle have put out joint press releases and videos about their work together," said Colebourne in his blog. He said he and many others "have no idea who Hologic is and why they are a good choice to represent the Java community (the 'C' in JCP!)"

Colebourne also questioned whether Pullara is too close to Oracle Vice President Adam Messinger.

"Politics is sometimes a dirty game. And the inclusion of Hologic and Sam Pullara doesn't give a great appearance," Colebourne said. After initially recommending a vote against Pullara, Colebourne said he leaves it up to others to decide.

Recently, Java founder and former Oracle and Sun Microsystems official James Gosling has called for Oracle to create an independent JCP to control Java. But Oracle "basically has total control" of the JCP at present, Colebourne said.

"The JCP is not actually an independent organization," said Colebourne in an interview.

"Oracle essentially benefits by being able to control what occurred in the whole community in the whole area around Java," said Colebourne.

Oracle in a statement defended its Hologic nomination. Hologic develops technology for health care.

"The point of our Hologic nomination, as with our Credit Suisse nomination earlier, is to inject some much-needed Java end-user and business perspective into the EC, as opposed to standards, technologist, technology vendor, and developer community perspectives -- all of which are already well represented," the company said.

Pullara in an interview stressed his independence from Oracle. "I know Adam Messinger really well, but that's because both of us have been working on Java for a long time," Pullara said. "I've got no interest in pushing forward Oracle's agenda, just Java's agenda."

Oracle defended the JCP.

"Although we are committed to improving the JCP, we also believe that the JCP is fully capable of supporting vigorous debate and deep involvement and contributions from a variety of individual and corporate participants, and we feel confident that the vast majority of EC members would agree," Oracle said.

This article, "Java politics brews conflicts between Oracle and JCP participants," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.